Does that make sense?

As a public speaking coach, I was intrigued by a discussion on the Harvard Business Review Blog about whether a speaker should use the phrase “Does that makes sense?” while doing a presentation or training session.

Are you serious?

My first response was, “Are you serious? Do you really think this is an issue?” But apparently some people – particularly people who need something to write about – think it is. Well, it’s not an issue for me; it’s just a fact of life.

It’s my duty

In addition to my one-on-one presentation coaching sessions I facilitate a lot of corporate workshops and public workshops, where I’m presenting concepts that are very familiar to me which may be brand new to the people I’m speaking to. It’s my duty – and it’s the duty of every facilitator – to check in with the audience from time to time. If you don’t, you can’t be sure you’ve really communicated.

Communication is slippery

One thing I’ve learned from hard experience as a writer and speaker is that communication is a slippery thing. I don’t think you really appreciate how slippery it is until you’re writing material that’s published to tens of thousands of people or when you’re publishing to a small but very critical audience. It’s amazing what people can read into what you’ve said, how they can misinterpret, misunderstand and generally just not “get” what you’re trying to convey. And often it’s nobody’s fault; it’s just the fragility of the communications process.

I always check in

I always check in with my audience to make sure I’ve said what I think I’ve said. And I look for nods. If I don’t see them I follow up with something like, “Hmmm . . . I’m not seeing any recognition out there . . . Have I communicated?. . . Is this clear for everyone before I move on?” That usually brings a few nods even from a reluctant audience and I’m able to move forward.

I ask

I only speak in public for one reason: to provide value. And I don’t know if I’ve provided value if people don’t tell me. And most times – at least during a presentation or training – they don’t tell me unless I ask. So I ask. And I get responses.

It’s crucial

If you’re doing presentations or training, I suggest you check in with your audience from time to time. I’ll admit that when you’re doing a formal speech it’s less necessary but in my opinion it’s absolutely crucial in the training process.

Need a guest speaker?

If your group needs a skilled guest speaker or workshop leader, I’d like to help you. I provide a range of communications key note presentations and workshops. Please visit the presentations and workshops pages of this website and contact me to discuss how I can help you.

Need a presentation trainer?

Would you like help dealing with public speaking training and other communications issues? If so, please contact me to discuss my public speaking training programs. I provide one-on-one presentation training and group public speaking training sessions that provide tools to develop your public speaking skills. Contact me today

About Thomas Moss

Thomas Moss is a speaker, writer and coach who provides business communications services, primarily in the Greater Toronto Area, including Oshawa, Whitby, Ajax, Pickering, Markham, Richmond Hill, Newmarket, Vaughan, Brampton and Mississauga. Service is also available outside of the GTA.

Politicians provide public speaking training

I love listening to politicians, particularly because their actions often provide valuable public speaking training lessons.

Hudak made himself a target

Training, specifically Canadian training for recent immigrants, has become a hot issue in the current Ontario election. A couple of days ago I heard Ontario Conservative leader Tim Hudak tear into a plan floated by the Liberals to provide a $10,000 incentive to any company that hired new immigrants to allow them to get some Canadian training. Hudak sounded a bit like a junkyard dog and, with just a little froth around the corners of his mouth, he tore into the plan with venom saying his government would provide jobs for Canadians, not “foreign workers”. And with that one little phrase Hudak made himself a public speaking target that Liberal leader, Dalton McGuinty lost no time in attacking.

“The Tea Party element”

With the smoothness that comes from years and years as a ruling party leader, McGuinty pointed out that “in my Ontario there is no ‘them and us’, there is only ‘us’”. He went on to contrast his party with the Conservatives by referring to some of Hudak’s supporters as “the Tea Party element”. What a beautiful comeback! Whoever wrote those words for McGuinty deserves a raise.

Know your audience

It’s all delightful theatre but what are the lessons here? I think the first one is, know your audience; know what your audience needs and wants to hear. Hudak may have been appeasing some of the elements in his constituency with his reference to “foreign workers” but in this case I think McGuinty was more in tune with the broader electorate.

Choose your words

The second lesson is: choose your words carefully. Labeling new immigrants as “foreign workers” is dangerous territory and potentially inflammatory to Ontario’s millions of immigrant voters. Hudak virtually handed McGuinty the high ground and McGuinty was more than happy to occupy it.

Present your facts well

The third lesson is to know your facts and present them well. Based on his comments, it sounds as though Hudak grabbed the basic information and just came out swinging whereas McGuinty gave a considered, measured controlled response. If Hudak had analayzed Mcguinty’s policy more thoroughly and offered a better alternative he would have come off sounding much more attractive to the majority of voters.

Prepare your messages

And that brings me to the final message: know what messages your words and actions should deliver and prepare them well. One of McGuinty’s key messages in this election is the need for stable, experienced leadership and Hudak gave him the opportunity to deliver that message once again. Unfortunately for Hudak, he left the impression that he’s an angry reactionary, not a steady hand. As public speakers, we must always remember that it’s the unspoken messages that can be most lasting and powerful of all.

Win with honey

To be fair, a little later the same day, Hudak came off as cool,and relaxed and well informed. He needs to cultivate that persona more and the hot headed critic less. That old adage about winning more flies with honey than with vinegar still applies.

Need a guest speaker?

If your group needs a skilled guest speaker or workshop leader, I’d like to help you. I provide a range of communications key note presentations and workshops. Please visit the presentations and workshops pages of this website and contact me to discuss how I can help you.

Need a presentation trainer?

Would you like help dealing with public speaking training and other communications issues? If so, please contact me to discuss my public speaking training programs. I provide one-on-one presentation training and group public speaking training sessions that provide tools to develop your public speaking skills. Contact me today!

About Thomas Moss

Thomas Moss is a speaker, writer and coach who provides business communications services, primarily in the Greater Toronto Area, including Oshawa, Whitby, Ajax, Pickering, Markham, Richmond Hill, Newmarket, Vaughan, Brampton and Mississauga. Service is also available outside of the GTA.

Sometimes the words don’t matter

If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time you know that I talk a lot about speaking in public and how powerful it can be in a host of ways. Most of us struggle with finding the right words and using them in the most appropriate way to influence others, to share feelings and ideas. I train people to become better public speakers but I learned of a tragedy yesterday that got me thinking about how difficult it can be to speak at all under some circumstances and that sometimes words, for all their power, are inadequate.

When words don’t matter

A potential client mentioned that she was going to attend the funeral of a small child in Toronto and she didn’t know what to say to the parents. Of course, that got me thinking about when I’ve been in similar situations as well as the times in my life when I’ve faced major losses and what I needed from others. As I thought it through I realized that’s a time when words don’t really matter.

An unmovable force

I’m no expert in these areas and, fortunately, I’ve only had to deal with them a few times. But those experiences have taught me a great deal. And what I’ve learned is that those situations are so stark, so powerful, that nothing anyone can ever say will resolve them. The death of a loved one is an absolutely unmovable force that leaves us grasping to cope with its finality and our feelings of helplessness and isolation.

What grieving people need

And those feelings, I think, are our clue to providing comfort to people who have suffered a loss. As I thought about the feelings of those grieving parents I realized very clearly that the words we plan to say to them don’t matter. Just by being there with them, holding a hand, giving a hug tells that person more than anything we can say because what those grieving people need to know is that they are still part of our world, that they have people in their community who care about them and who share the pain of their loss.

A touch can say “I care”

We communicate in many ways and one of the strongest ways we communicate is through touch. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a touch is worth a thousand pictures. I think there is something primordial in us that needs the comfort of another human’s touch to get us through the darkest, most difficult times. There is something about a tender touch that can say, “I care . . . I share your feelings” And at times of loss the gentle touch of a hand or a comforting hug can provide support that can’t be measured.

More than anything you say

As a society, we’ve drifted away from a touching culture and, indeed, we have to be careful these days that our touches are not misunderstood. Common sense must rule. But the next time you have the opportunity to show your support of a friend or colleague who has endured a tragic loss, remember that just being there, listening and extending the hand of friendship will mean more than anything you may think you need to say.

Need a guest speaker?

If your group needs a skilled guest speaker or workshop leader, I’d like to help you. I provide a range of communications key note presentations and workshops. Please visit the presentations and workshops pages of this website and contact me to discuss how I can help you.

Need a presentation trainer?

Would you like help dealing with public speaking training and other communications issues? I provide one-on-one presentation training and group public speaking training sessions that provide tools to best develop your public speaking skills. Contact me today.  You’ll be glad you did!

About Thomas Moss

Thomas Moss is a speaker, writer and coach who provides business communications services, primarily in the Greater Toronto Area and across Ontario, including Oshawa, Whitby, Ajax, Pickering, Markham, Richmond Hill, Newmarket, Vaughan, Brampton and Mississauga. Service is also available outside of the GTA.

Presentation training vs. Toastmasters

As a Toronto presentation trainer, I had a chuckle or two as I flipped through some slides on SlideShare. Jeanne Trojan, who is a presentation trainer in the Czech Republic, was sharing her opinions under the heading 3 Reasons I’m not a Toastmaster.

Very courageous

I thought it was very courageous of her to criticize an organization like Toastmasters. That’s a bit like criticizing motherhood, but I had to laugh at some of her slides, particularly the one about how many times a speaker said “Um”. I’ll devote a future post to that one. I have strong feelings about it.

Not for everyone

I’ve had prospective clients react with surprise when I’ve suggested they consider going to Toastmasters instead of hiring me. I guess they expect me to act in my own best interest and try to convince them to use my services, but my services aren’t for everyone, just as Toastmasters isn’t for everyone. Presentation training for business purposes and delivering a speech at Toastmasters is like comparing apples and oranges. They’re just not the same thing. For one thing, Toastmasters evaluators are a lot ’nicer’ than professional trainers. But there’s good reason for that.

A very positive thing

Professionals need to hear all the negatives a business audience will react to but not comment on. If that same kind of tough evaluation were used on Toastmasters speakers it would probably be counter-productive. Many people go to Toastmasters to learn to cope with their fear of public speaking. They need positive support and they find it, along with some gentle criticism. I’ve known people who went from terror to a love of presentation because of the support and guidance they’d received from Toastmasters. And that’s a very positive thing.

The bottom line
So what’s the bottom line? Well, Toastmasters is aimed at ordinary people who want to develop some speaking skills. Is it the best place for people who want to become professional speakers? I know some who came up that way, but it certainly isn’t a replacement for professional training. They both have their place.

Need a guest speaker?

If your group needs a skilled guest speaker or workshop leader, I’d like to help you. I provide a range of communications key note presentations and workshops. Please visit the presentations and workshops pages of this website and contact me to discuss how I can help you.

Need a presentation trainer?

Would you like help dealing with public speaking training and other communications issues? I provide one-on-one presentation training and group public speaking training sessions that provide tools to best develop your public speaking skills. Contact me today.  You’ll be glad you did!

About Thomas Moss

Thomas Moss is a speaker, writer and presentation coach who provides business communications services, primarily in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and throughout Ontario, including Oshawa, Whitby, Ajax, Pickering, Markham, Richmond Hill, Newmarket, Vaughan, Brampton and Mississauga. Service is also available outside of the GTA.

This one’s for Ray

If it weren’t for website copywriter Ray Litvak I might be out of business by now.

He phoned me

I first met Ray when he phoned me about a year-and-a-half ago and asked for some presentation training for a public speaking gig he was preparing. I’d been in business then for several years and, like so many other people, after all that time I was still barely keeping the lights on. I loved helping people to develop their public speaking skills but I was spending most – almost all – of my time and energy finding clients.

The grind was wearing

I’d done most of the usual things: networking, advertising, printing brochures, joining professional associations, developing and writing a website and blog, etc. but I was having difficulty justifying the time I was investing for the return it was bringing. And the grind of constant promotion was wearing me down. I wanted to help people with public speaking training, not search for them.

“Nobody knows you’re there”

As a website copywriter, Ray told me he was very impressed with my blogsite. In his words: “Google really likes you. You have a Ferrari blogsite but nobody knows you’re there because the site hasn’t been optimized for search engines. The content is great but the site is invisible.”

He worked on my site

He wanted to work on my site and I wanted to help him with his presentation skills and promote him as a website copywriter and search engine optimization (SEO) expert, so he went to work on my site last summer. Within a few weeks I received my first query and after that they began to arrive once or twice a week.

I’d tried to optimize

To put this in perspective, I’ve had a website for many years and up until Ray started working on it I think I’d had a total of about three inquiries, one of which turned into a paying client. It was literally costing me more to pay annual registration and hosting fees than I was making from my site. And I had tried, in my own amateurish way, to optimize my blog postings but it wasn’t helping.

Top five listings

So why the sudden change? Simple. Ray’s website copywriting skills took my ranking from somewhere deep in the bowels of Google to the top of Page One – usually to the top five listings for my key words. And the e-mails started arriving. And the phone started ringing. And the customers started engaging me.

Committed prospects

Ray was very specific about warning me that, as a website copywriter, he could drive traffic but once the call or e-mail arrived it would be up to me to close the sale. And I had no problem with that. Usually, by the time potential clients contacted me they were already committed prospects and all I had to do was assure them that I could deliver what I promised.

A new workshop

Because I’ve received so many inquiries from people who want public speaking training but can’t afford or cost justify one-on-one sessions, I’m developing a new half-day public speaking workshop. I already have contact information for more than 20 people who want this kind of training, so I’ve got a nucleus of interested people to start with.

Optimizing each page

I recently overhauled my blogsite because I could finally afford to do it and, as time allows, Ray and I are optimizing each page and blog post to increase my range of key words and my find-ability on Google and other search engines.

My business has a future

I’ve heard some of the horror stories about business people who invested in search engine optimization and were appalled with the results. I’ve had the exact opposite experience. My business now has a future because of my search engine rankings.

Long-term benefits

The other thing I hear about SEO is that it’s expensive. But if you hire a good online copywriter and you can justify the cost in any way, based on my experience, I’d say you will have an excellent chance of reaping significant long-term benefits.

Lots of books

For those who simply can’t justify the cost in any way, there are lots of books out there that will get you started and, if you’re diligent, you can reach the top of the search engines for your area of expertise. The downside is that it takes a ton of time and commitment. But if you can’t afford to hire a website copywriter who’s as skilled and honest as Ray, you’re probably better off relying on a book than a self-appointed expert who may take you half the distance.

Thanks, Ray

I didn’t mean to write this much. When I started I simply wanted to express my appreciation to someone that I respect a great deal and to say “Thanks, Ray” for what he’s doing for me and my business.

p.s. If you want to check out Ray’s services for yourself you can start with a visit to his website at www.writingwebwords.com.

Need a guest speaker?

If your group needs a skilled guest speaker or workshop leader, I’d like to help you. I provide a range of communications key note presentations and workshops. Please visit the presentations and workshops pages of this website and contact me to discuss how I can help you.

Need a presentation trainer?

Would you like help dealing with public speaking training and other communications issues?  I provide one-on-one presentation training and group public speaking training sessions that best provide tools to develop your public speaking skills. Contact me today. You’ll be glad you did!

About Thomas Moss

Thomas Moss is a speaker, writer and coach who provides business communications services, primarily in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and throughout Ontario, including Oshawa, Whitby, Ajax, Pickering, Markham, Richmond Hill, Newmarket, Vaughan, Brampton and Mississauga. 

Boring speaker introductions – and what to do about them

I’ve seen two speaker introductions in the past week, one in Toronto, the other in Durham Region, and neither of them did what speaker introductions should do. They were flat, unimaginative and uninspiring. But they don’t have to – and they shouldn’t – be that way.

Organizers provide a speaker introduction
It’s standard practice for conference organizers to provide a speaker introduction and a thank you message.  But they’re often written by people who have no particular feeling for the topic or the speaker and they usually provide pretty basic information. And too often, that basic introduction gets read word for word in a tone that says, “I have to read this to you. It’s kind of boring but I have to do it”.

Throw it away
Here’s a hint: It’s not necessary to use the prepared introduction at all. You can throw it away. And in some cases the speaker would be better served if you did that. Instead of using the canned introduction, you can do a little advance research on the internet to dig out some interesting facts about the speaker and use them to do the kind of speaker introduction that benefits everyone.

Talk to the speaker you’re introducing
A Google search is a good place to start, followed by Linked In, Facebook and other social media sites. And hey, here’s a novel approach: how about talking to the speaker before the presentation and jotting down a few significant notes? You just might uncover some hidden gems.

Most speakers are flattered
And if you feel a little shy about approaching the speaker before the presentation I suggest that you just relax and do it anyway. Most speakers are flattered and happy to share some personal tidbits. An informal chat will probably be good for both of you. I’ve seen a number of introducers, who were clearly in awe of the speaker, add their personal discomfort to the formal (read: b-o-r-i-n-g) introduction. You don’t want to do that and a quick chat with the speaker will help you avoid it.

You’re introducing people
Think about it. What are you doing? You’re introducing people who’ve never met: the speaker and each member of the audience. Now, admittedly the introduction is one-sided, with the speaker being introduced in detail and everyone in the audience not being introduced individually at all. But really, the purpose is the same: you’re trying to build a bridge between the speaker and the audience. You’re telling each member of the audience why they should be interested in this person. And by doing that, you’re telling the speaker that the audience has been prepared to open their minds to the presentation.

Warm up the audience
What most people don’t know is that an audience needs to be warmed up. The speaker needs to develop a bit of a relationship with members of the audience before they are ready to accept and trust what’s to follow. It’s like any other introduction: You have two strangers coming together for the first time. Neither knows the other and there’s this cool breeze in the room until they break the ice. Your job as the person who’s introducing the speaker is to shorten that getting-to-know-you phase by telling the audience who it is who’s about to address them and why the presenter and/or the presentation will have value for them. You’re the front person, the warm up guy/gal.

Generate excitement
If that process is reduced to an obligation and a formality I think it should be dispensed with entirely because the silent message is: “I’m bored, this introduction is boring and the speaker may be boring too.”  But the implied message should be: “I’m excited to be here. I’m delighted to be introducing this dynamic speaker. You’re really going to like this . . .”

Get the process started
The speaker needs you; the audience needs you. You are a very important person if you’ve been selected to introduce someone. You set the tone and the mood. You get the process started.

Get a little animated
I like to get a little animated when I introduce a speaker, to share a few significant things in their background and to wind it up with something like “Would you please join me in giving a warm welcome to . . . Jane Doe!” It’s my tamed down version of Ed McMann’s famous nightly introduction on The Johnny Carson Show: “And now . . . h-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-re’s Johnny!!”

Ad lib
Obviously, you don’t have to go as far as Ed McMann. In fact, you may be able to do a very adequate job with the material conference organizers provide. All you have to do is rewrite the main points into bullets set in large type that you can easily read.  And ad lib from there. Keep your bullets short enough that you can scoop them up with a glance (without losing eye contact with your audience), show your smile in your voice as well as  your face and generate a little excitement.

Keep it short
One final word: I like short introductions that take about a minute or less. There are occasions where a longer introduction is appropriate but, for most presentations, a one-minute introduction is perfectly adequate. We don’t want to hear an entire biography; we just want to know why we should listen to this person and what he or she is likely to provide for us. We want to be warmed up, to get a little excited and anticipate what’s to follow.

You can do this
You can do this. It’s easy. Just create some good material, get a little excited and share your excitement with the audience.

Need a guest speaker?

If your group needs a skilled guest speaker or workshop leader, I’d like to help you. I provide a range of communications key note presentations and workshops. Please visit the presentations and workshops pages of this website and contact me to discuss how I can help you.

Need a presentation trainer?

Would you like help dealing with public speaking training and other communications issues? I provide one-on-one presentation training and group public speaking training sessions that provide tools to best develop your public speaking skills. Contact me today.  You’ll be glad you did!

About Thomas Moss

Thomas Moss is a public speaker, speech writer and coach who provides business communications services, primarily in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and throughout Ontario, including Oshawa, Whitby, Ajax, Pickering, Markham, Richmond Hill, Newmarket, Vaughan, Brampton and Mississauga. Service is also available outside of the GTA.

The King’s Speech says it all

The King’s Speech, had me sitting on the edge of my seat when my wife and I went to see it, just before it received several Academy Awards. That’s because I heard Lionel Logue, the speech therapist, saying many of the things I find myself saying in my public speaking workshops.

“You don’t have to be afraid . . .

There were so many places in the film where I was nodding and silently muttering “Absolutely!”, to myself that I can’t remember them all. But there was one snippet of dialogue in the film that stood out from the rest. It sent me scrambling through my pockets for a scrap of paper and a pen to scribble these words in the darkness: “You don’t have to be afraid of the things you were afraid of when you were five”.

People are running and hiding

No truer words were ever spoken. And yet, this world is full of people who are still running, hiding and trying to protect themselves from things that happened when they were small children. I encounter them all the time in my public speaking workshops. I have helped more clients than I can remember to exorcise cruel teachers, bullies and traumatic events that they’ve hidden, sometimes from themselves, since childhood. These people had been swallowing their self confidence because they were still intimidated by people and events that no longer had any logical place in their lives.

The King’s Speech deserved an Oscar

I’m no film expert, so I can’t comment on whether The King’ Speech deserved an Oscar Award for best picture. But I do know that The King’s Speech deserved an Oscar Award for the truisms it points out in regard to public speaking. Obviously, the stakes were much higher for King George VI than they are for most of us. And obviously, the king’s speech impediment was the primary focus of the film. But it if you just substitute the word “public speaking” for “stammering”, the film is full of messages for anyone who is required to speak in public.

The first step in resolving fear

I had to smile when Lionel Logue told the king that he could help him improve his speech “. . . if you want to change”. That was one of my “Absolutely!” moments. Because, believe it or not, the first step in resolving fear of public speaking is to want to change. And you might be surprised at how many people really don’t want to change. Because they’ve become so accustomed to their fear that it’s become an integral part of them. And if they let it go, they will no longer be who they’ve come to believe they are.

They will be more capable

And they’re right. They’ll no longer be who they’ve come to believe they are. They will be more confident and, because they are more confident, they will be more capable and more satisfied with their own existence.

The truth

I thought The King’s Speech was a very moving film. Not because the primary character had to deliver a speech that could affect the future of the entire western hemisphere, but because it told the truth about the fear most of us have toward public speaking. More people need to hear and heed the words of Lionel Logue: “You can do it . . . you needn’t be governed by fear . . .”

Need a guest speaker?

If your group needs a skilled guest speaker or workshop leader, I’d like to help you. I provide a range of communications key note presentations and workshops. Please visit the presentations and workshops pages of this website and contact me to discuss how I can help you.

Need a presentation trainer?

Would you like help dealing with public speaking training and other communications issues? If so, please contact me to discuss my public speaking training programs. I provide one-on-one presentation training and group public speaking training sessions that provide tools to develop your public speaking skills. Contact me today!

About Thomas Moss

Thomas Moss is a public speaker, speech writer and coach who provides business communications services, primarily in the Greater Toronto Area, including Oshawa, Whitby, Ajax, Pickering, Markham, Richmond Hill, Newmarket, Vaughan, Brampton and Mississauga. Service is also available outside of the GTA.

Slutwalk as presentation training

I found a couple of intersecting stories in two Toronto newspapers recently that underscore what I often say in my presentation training sessions. The first story, which appeared in Toronto’s Globe and Mail, was about the city’s first-ever SlutWalk, which attracted 3,000 people who walked from Queen’s Park to Toronto’s police headquarters on College Street. I’ve learned since that the movement has spread to at least 20 cities in the United States, as well as to England, Scotland, Wales, Argentina, Australia, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Sweden. All of this because of one well-meaning, but obviously misguided comment made by one police officer to fewer than a dozen women.

Apology was not enough

It all started when, during a personal safety presentation, Police Constable Michael Sanguinetti, told a group of 10 women at York University: ““I’ve been told I’m not supposed to say this – however, women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.” Sanguinetti later apologized but his apology was not enough to soothe the angry women who organized the first SlutWalk because they believed they should be able to dress any way they liked without fear of assault.

Charlie Sheen bombed

The second pair of stories that raised my eyebrows, which at first appear to have no relation to the first one, was a review of the opening presentation of Charlie Sheen’s Violent Torpedo of Truth tour in Detroit, followed the next day by a second review of his performance in Chicago. Sheen bombed in Detroit; people walked out. However, by the next day an enterprising former Toronto disc jockey saved the tour in Chicago by changing the format.

Focused on themselves

So what do these seemingly unconnected stories have in common? Well it’s simply this: the speakers, Sanguinetti at York and Sheen in Detroit, got into trouble because they were more focused on themselves than their audiences.

Under-estimated his audience

In Sanguinetti’s case he saw himself as an authority figure, which he is in his professional capacity. In his world he’s in charge. He tells people what to do and they do it. Nobody questions him. So his sense of power is quite understandable. Where he made his mistake was in underestimating the power of the people he was speaking to, who have made his life a living hell ever since he uttered those unfortunate words. Interestingly, Sanguinetti and Sheen made exactly the same mistake, based on their perception of their own importance and power. In Detroit, Sheen said and did exactly what he wanted to say and do, assuming he didn’t need to answer to anyone – not even his audience. So his presentation was focused exclusively on gratifying himself; his audience could take it or leave it. They left.

Fixing the problem

What’s interesting is that former Toronto DJ Joey Scoleri was able to recognize the show’s problem and rectify it almost immediately. He knew that all he had to do was to take the focus off of Sheen and put it on the audience. So the next night in Chicago he turned the show into a question and answer session with himself as moderator. All of a sudden the audience became involved. They were no longer watching a public display of self-destructive abuse; they were exploring the man they had come to see.

You owe your audience

Sanguinetti and Sheen could have saved themselves a lot of grief simply by remembering that when you get up to speak, no matter how much power you have, your audience is more powerful than you are. You owe it to your audience and yourself to think of them first. Think of who they are. Think of what’s important to them. What are their values? How can you deliver your message in a way that will be meaningful to them? Because in the end they are the ones that matter – not you.

Need a guest speaker?

If your group needs a skilled guest speaker or workshop leader, I’d like to help you. I provide a range of communications key note presentations and workshops. Please visit the presentations and workshops pages of this website and contact me to discuss how I can help you.

Need a presentation trainer?

Would you like help dealing with public speaking training and other communications issues? If so, please contact me to discuss my public speaking training programs. I provide one-on-one presentation training and group public speaking training sessions that provide tools to develop your public speaking skills. Contact me today!

About Thomas Moss

Thomas Moss is a speaker, writer and coach who provides business communications services, primarily in the Greater Toronto Area, including Oshawa, Whitby, Ajax, Pickering, Markham, Richmond Hill, Newmarket, Vaughan, Brampton and Mississauga. Service is also available outside of the GTA.

Public speaking training: courage, humility and practice

Jim Coyle wrote an interesting column in the Toronto Star a while back about Ontario power Generation president Tom Mitchell that makes some statements about public speaking training. Mitchell had just delivered a speech to a Toronto crowd on the refurbishment of the Darlington generating station, just east of Toronto. As he waxed poetic about the complex “nuclear choreography” required, he joked about his speaking skills, referring to his description as his “inner artsy coming out”. He added that, “Public speaking was not a required course in engineering school.”

The value of courage and humility

It takes courage and humility for someone at Mitchell’s level to make that kind of comment. But he obviously recognizes the value of courage and humility when it comes to public speaking. You don’t have to be “artsy” to be a good speaker; you just have to be genuine. And Mitchell has obviously learned that lesson well. He’s discovered that taking any and every opportunity to speak in public builds presentation skills. For someone in his position, building skills in public speaking, training yourself to communicate effectively, is absolutely essential. You learn by doing. Public speaking itself becomes public speaking training.

An opportunity to connect

And when you become comfortable with speaking to groups, something very satisfying and valuable happens. As Mitchell puts it, “. . . I’m beginning to like it a bit . . . it gives me an opportunity to connect with people – and vice versa.” Did you notice that last phrase: “it gives me an opportunity to connect with people – and vice versa”? That’s an awesome ability – to be able to connect with people and have them respond.

Charismatic leaders inspire

We’ve all heard about the charismatic corporate or political leader who can “connect” with his or her people, inspire them and encourage them to follow him or her anywhere. And most of us have worked for the taciturn boss who speaks when he or she is spoken to and generally avoids human contact. And those of us who have had that opportunity are familiar with the outcomes.

We build bonds

The real value of public speaking and training ourselves to communicate effectively is the bond we build between ourselves and our audiences. It’s hard to build a positive relationship with someone who’s afraid of you. And it’s hard to resist someone who can take you into his or her confidence.

Reaching out gains support

Mitchell knows this and he uses it. By opening himself to his audience, Mitchell opens his audience to him. “Lately I’ve been focused on this subject of connections,” he says, and goes on to goes on to say that he feels his industry has “become disconnected” from the people it serves. And based on some of the comments I see in the Toronto Star and other media, I’d say he’s right. But let’s give credit where credit is due. Mitchell knows that by reaching out, by standing up and speaking, often to a skeptical audience, he can gain more support than if he let his fear of public speaking control him and force him into silence. Particularly because negative rumours fill the silences left by those who refuse to embrace the opportunity to communicate.

Need a guest speaker?

If your group needs a skilled guest speaker or workshop leader, I’d like to help you. I provide a range of communications key note presentations and presentation workshops. Please visit the presentations and workshops pages of this website and contact me to discuss how I can help you.

Need a public speaking trainer?

Would you like help dealing with public speaking training and other communications issues? If so, please contact me to discuss my public speaking training programs. I provide one-on-one presentation training and group public speaking training sessions that provide tools to develop your public speaking skills. Contact me today!

About Thomas Moss

Thomas Moss is a speaker, writer and coach who provides business communications services, primarily in the Greater Toronto Area, including Oshawa, Whitby, Ajax, Pickering, Markham, Richmond Hill, Newmarket, Vaughan, Brampton and Mississauga. Service is also available outside of the GTA.

 

Burned by the media

I see the media has claimed another victim. This time it’s one of the former wives of a polygamist in Bountiful, B.C. The woman – I’ll give her the dignity of withholding her name, although it’s been blared across the continent and the world by the media – asked the judge at her former husband’s polygamy trial to withhold her video evidence from reporters to prevent them from embarrassing her with it.

Maybe she was naïve

She spoke from experience, having regretted talking to the media in the past. We can certainly question her judgment because, among others, she appeared on the Dr. Phil talk show and shared details of her life as one of ten wives. Maybe she was naïve, maybe she liked the attention and glamour of being on TV. Maybe she just wanted to have her story told.

Her story didn’t matter

But she learned in very short order that her story really didn’t matter much. What mattered was the media’s edition of her story. And that word edition is a big one because that’s what gets published. That’s what holds readers/viewers and sells ads. As the woman told the Toronto Star, “. . . the media can make it sound the way they want it to sound”. She’s right. And that’s where I have big issues.

They had no idea

I’ve heard people complain that a reporter did a 45-minute interview and only 10 seconds made it to air, often out of context. And I’ve seen people babble away to a reporter as if he or she were a friend, not realizing that anything they said could fling them into the spotlight and potentially embarrass them to their community, including their bosses. They simply had no idea of the power of the media.

No obligation

If a cop arrests you for a criminal offence, he or she is obligated to read your rights, to tell you that anything you say may be used against you in a court of law. But a journalist has no obligation to tell you that anything you say can be edited in any manner and published to the world, perhaps in a context that’s opposite to the one you spoke in. A journalist’s only obligation is to identify him- or herself as a journalist. Once they’ve done that, everything you say is on the record and you can read it in the papers or see it on TV news.

The rules are simple

I understand journalists have a tough job. I know they work hard and the good ones follow a strict moral and professional code. They – the good ones – act in the public interest. But I’ve always had an issue with the fact that they are not required – and therefore don’t – explain the rules of engagement to ordinary people who’ve had no exposure to media. The rules are simple: if you’re talking to a journalist, everything you say can be published. The journalist knows that – but the interviewee often doesn’t. And the journalist is able to use that lack of awareness to his or her advantage, often to the detriment of the interviewee.

Respect for privacy

I think it’s time we introduced a new standard of journalistic professionalism. I think it’s time for journalists to start doing what police officers are required to do during criminal arrests. The public needs to know, when it’s their turn to have their 15 minutes of fame, that they have the right to remain silent and that everything they say can be published and perhaps used against them by family, friends and their community. I think that’s just basic respect for privacy.

Need a guest speaker?

If your group needs a skilled guest speaker or workshop leader, I’d like to help you. I provide a range of communications key note presentations and workshops. Please visit the presentations and workshops pages of this website and contact me to discuss how I can help you.

Need a presentation trainer?

Would you like help dealing with public speaking training and other communications issues? If so, please contact me to discuss my public speaking training programs. I provide one-on-one presentation training and group public speaking training sessions that provide tools to develop your public speaking skills. Contact me today!

About Thomas Moss

Thomas Moss is a speaker, writer and coach who provides business communications services, primarily in the Greater Toronto Area, including Oshawa, Whitby, Ajax, Pickering, Markham, Richmond Hill, Newmarket, Vaughan, Brampton and Mississauga. Service is also available outside of the GTA.